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Building a successful start-up is a challenge. Everybody knows that, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. Being a successful technology entrepreneur may be the most challenging feat of all. Today there are so many technologies and shiny use cases to go along with them, that ferreting out real opportunity and practical solutions to real problems takes as much luck as talent.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been involved in the speech technology scene and watched as many companies unveiled prototypes of smart conversational devices. At first there seemed to be skepticism on the part of some people and the press about why anyone would need or want a “voice assistant” or a talking device. Then Amazon launched the Echo and suddenly everyone seemed to get it.

Google and Apple and others are hurrying their own voice assistants into production. At the same time, many smaller companies are building more ambitious social robots that include animated faces, facial recognition, choreographed movements, and more. Some of these companies are designing digital companion robots especially for children.

A few months ago my co-founder and I started on a journey to build and source great content for smart talking devices with our company Hutch.ai. Our thought was that talking devices are only as good as the stories and other content they have to tell. I acknowledge the tremendous challenge of designing and engineering a conversational social robot. But creating a steady stream of engaging content might be just as hard.

Thankfully there’s a lot of fun to be had along the way, even though the start-up road isn’t a smooth one. We get the most enjoyment out of meeting others in the industry, finding out what they’re doing, and learning from their efforts. We’ve enjoyed experimenting with different types of content. So far our experiments have resulted in the creation of two educational and entertaining skills for the Amazon Echo, both designed for younger listeners. We have more content on the way that’s geared towards a broader audience.

Attending this year’s Digital Kids Summit promises to be a great place to connect with and learn from others in our industry. I’m looking forward to building new relationships, as well as seeing colleagues I already know. For example there’s Maura Sparks, a key member of the Siliconic Home team building Smarty, a wonderful companion device that can entertain and educate young children. I know Maura and it will be great to see her again and talk about how things are going.

There are so many other people that I’d really like to get to know. There’s Darri Stephens of Common Sense Media, who’s creating great educational K-12 content. Eldad Ben Tora of Kidoz has been developing really innovative strategies for monetizing children’s apps. Mark Schlichting of Noodleworks is an expert in children’s interactive design. Joby Otero is an industry veteran in interactive games, robotics, and AI. The list of amazing people who are involved with the Digital Kids Summit goes on and on.

Building a successful start up is hard. It helps to learn from others and understand industry trends and consumer expectations. A conference like Digital Kids Summit, which brings together so many of the top creative experts in one place, offers a great opportunity. And besides that, it’s going to be a lot of fun!

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